Americans overwhelmingly oppose reopening most businesses: poll - Josh Loe

Americans overwhelmingly oppose reopening most businesses: poll


  • Americans still overwhelmingly oppose most businesses returning to normal operations, a Washington Post and University of Maryland poll published Tuesday found. 

  • The poll found that 56% of Americans are comfortable going to a grocery store, two-thirds are uncomfortable going to a retail clothing store, and a full 78% are uncomfortable going to a restaurant for dine-in service. 
  • Far less than half of Americans supported reopening eight types of businesses, including retail stores, hair and nail salons, gyms, movie theaters, dine-in restaurant service, and even golf courses. 
  • The Washington Post and Maryland survey echoes other polling on the topic, which has also found significant support for governments continuing to enforce social distancing measures and keeping most businesses closed. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Americans still overwhelmingly oppose most businesses returning to normal operations as multiple states push to reopen businesses in an effort to restart their economies, a Washington Post and University of Maryland poll published Tuesday found. 

Currently, 39 states are beginning the process of easing the restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. So far, there are 1.18 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with almost 69,000 deaths. 

The virus’ outbreak has caused significant damage to the economy, with over 30 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits and millions more being furloughed or having their hours or pay cut. But still, Americans largely oppose efforts to compel businesses to reopen now.

The poll, conducted from April 28-May 3, surveyed 502 American adults with a sample size of ±5 percentage points, found that while a majority of 56% of Americans are comfortable going to a grocery store, two-thirds are uncomfortable going to a retail clothing store, and a full 78% are uncomfortable going to a restaurant for dine-in service. 

The poll also asked respondents for their level of support for reopening specific business establishments, and found that far less than half of Americans supported reopening eight types of businesses. Among all Americans: 

  • 18% support reopening movie theaters
  • 22% support reopening gun stores
  • 25% support reopening nail salons
  • Only 26% support reopening dine-in restaurant service 
  • 29% support reopening gun shops. 
  • 31% support reopening hair salons. 
  • 34% support reopening retail stores
  • 41% support reopening golf courses. 

The poll also found that opposition to reopening major businesses was relatively equal among Americans both living in states with strict stay-at-home orders and those with loosened restrictions. 

Georgia has been among the most aggresive states with reopening, allowing most businesses to return in some form despite still seeing rising COVID-19 cases.

The state’s shelter-in-place order expired for most residents on Friday, though Gov. Brian Kemp extended Georgia’s public-health state of emergency and is requiring elderly people and “medically fragile” people to shelter in place through June 12.

Kemp allowed a slew of business establishments, including hair and nail salons, bowling alleys, gyms, and massage-therapy centers, to reopen with “minimum basic operations” on April 24, followed by restaurants and movie theaters this past Monday. But he has encouraged residents to still stay at home if possible.

But anecdotally, business owners in the state reported that, despite the government encouraging them to reopen, they saw very few, if any, customers patronizing their businesses. 

Mario Zelaya, the CEO of an ax-throwing range business in Georgia, told Bisnow that “the reopening weekend was a disaster,” adding, “we had two customers all weekend.”

Both the poll and the experiences business owners in Georgia highlight the problems with governments pushing businesses to reopen as a strategy to restart the economy without there being adequate demand for those businesses’  services.

“Governments can’t order people to go out and consume,” Huffington Post economic policy reporter Zach Carter noted in a Saturday tweet. “People don’t want to go out, and the idea that there is some pent-up mass of populist energy demanding to go shopping is just wrong.”

The Washington Post and Maryland survey echoes other polling on the topic, which has also found significant support for governments continuing to enforce social distancing measures and keeping most businesses closed. 

In an Insider poll of nearly 1,100 Americans conducted on April 28-29, 75% of respondents supported states extending social distancing guidelines for another two weeks. 

And an exhaustive nationwide survey of over 22,000 Americans in all 50 states conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard, Northeastern, and Rutgers published on Thursday found that 94% of Americans support governments asking people to stay home and not gather in groups, 83% support keeping businesses except grocery stores and pharmacies closed, and 92% support K-12 schools being closed. 

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